Horsepower Mondate

My guy works way too many hours and such is his life. So our attempt to head out early this morning didn’t exactly happen because he needed to sleep in a bit. It was just after ten when we reached our intended trailhead–Davis Path in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

c-bridge

Our hike began as we crossed over the Saco River via a suspension bridge. In 1931, Samuel Bemis built a bridge that spanned 108 feet. The bridge was rebuilt in 1999, when the Town of Hart’s Location received a grant from the National Scenic Byways. The current award-winning bridge is five feet wide, spans 168 feet and was designed as an asymmetrical cable stay bridge–possibly the first such in the USA.

c-Saco River

Below, the Saco River barely trickled.

c-stairway to heaven

The Davis Path begins almost directly across the street from The Notchland Inn on Route 302. At the beginning of the trail, a sign informed us that Abel and Hannah Crawford’s son-in-law, Nathaniel Davis, built the Davis Path in 1845 as a bridle path. As intended, the trail covers 14.4 miles to the top of Mt. Washington. Our destination was the first peak–Mount Crawford at 2.5 miles along the path. Thanks to the AMC, what had been the bridle path is now transformed into a trail that includes a variety of stairways to heaven.

c-climbing higher

Conditions changed constantly as we climbed–in tune with the changing forest. Mixed woods to hemlocks groves to firs to spruces. The higher we hiked, the more I kept thinking about the fact that this was a former horse path. However did they do it? How many in a team? We were each operating at one-horse power as we huffed and puffed along, but I think a team of at least six would be much more appropriate. Six horses pulling me up–I liked that thought.

c-dinner plate

Instead, I spent a lot of time looking down, so I got to see the low sights–like this dinner spot;

c-puffballs

emerging puffballs;

c-fern shadows

and fern shadows.

c-trail sign

Eventually we reached the sign pointing the way to the 3,119-foot summit.

c-hitting the balds

The trail changed as we hit the balds.

c-short horned grasshopper

And my view changed. I heard this guy’s crackling sound as he flew from one spot to the next only a foot or so apart. This is a short-horned, band-winged grasshopper.

c-mountain cranberry

Also at our feet–mountain cranberries.

c-mushroom on rock

And then there was this single fruiting structure sticking out of the moss on a rock–a bolete, I believe, but I’m out of my league on this one.

c-summit view 8 (1)

Less than two hours and lots of sweat later, we emerged at the top where many had tracked before us. No horse prints. The wind hit our faces with a cold blast and we were forced to hold onto our hats. Mount Washington and others were obscured by clouds.

c-summit view 7 (1)

c-summit view 5 (1)

c-summit view 4 (1)

The view was 360˚. We took it in, but the clouds truly did tell the story of the wind. And so we paused only briefly, noted the notch for which this area is named and then started our descent.

c-heading down (1)

On the way down, we found a less windy spot and located lunch rock–it’s the rock to the far right.

c- artists conk

My focus was a bit higher as we descended and so I saw artist’s conks,

c-hierogliphics

heiroglyphics left by bark borers,

c-red maple

and signs of the future.

Our descent was quicker than I thought it would be. As we practically rolled down the mountain, I was sure that had I been behind a team of horses, I’d be pulling on the reins and yelling, “Whoa Nellie.” And that brought memories of my mom, who was named Nellie, but went by Nell. She and Dad would have loved the fact that we have made a point to fold as many Mondates as possible into our lives. They loved long walks along beaches and finding picnic places. We love long hikes and finding lunch rocks. Same thing at a higher elevation.

My guy and I enjoyed another wonderful Mondate–at one-horsepower speed.

 

Halting Beside Holt Pond

Halting–prone to pauses or breaks. I didn’t break, but I certainly was prone to pauses as I moved along the trails and boardwalks at the Holt Pond Preserve in South Bridgton this afternoon.

h-pitcher flower2

One of my first stops–to admire the pitcher plant flowers in their August form.

h-pitcher  flower up close

When I took a closer look, I realized that the seeds were developing–certainly a WOW moment in the world of wonder.

h-buttonbush.jpg

The global seed heads of buttonbush also demanded to be noticed. Upon each head are at least two hundred flowers that produce small nutlets. What strikes me as strange is the fact that this plant is a member of the coffee family. Maine coffee–local brew; who knew?

h-Muddy across

At the Muddy River, the water level reflected what is happening throughout the region–another case of “Honey, I shrunk the kids.” It’s downright scary.

h-speckled bug and speckles

Both by the river and on the way to the quaking bog, this wetland features a variety of shrubs, including one of my many favorites, speckled alder. Check out the speckles–those warty bumps (aka lenticels or pores) that allow for gas exchange. And the new bud covered in hair.

h-speckled alder catkins

This shrub is so ready for next year–as evidenced by the slender, cylindrical catkins that are already forming. This is the male feature of the shrub.

h-speckled cones new

It also bears females–or fruiting cones filled with winged seeds.

h-speckled old cones

It’s not unusual for last year’s woody cones or female catkins to remain on the shrub for another year.

h-cranberries

Whenever I visit, it seems there’s something to celebrate–including ripening cranberries.

h-cotton grass

Common Cotton-grass dotted the sphagnum bog and looked as if someone had tossed a few cotton balls about. Today, they blew in the breeze and added life to the scene. Note to self–cotton-grass is actually a sedge. And sedges have edges.

h-holt pond left

Just like the Muddy River, Holt Pond was also obviously low. Perhaps the lowest I’ve ever seen. At this spot, I spent a long time watching dragonflies. They flew in constant defense of their territories.

h-slaty skimmer, male

Male slaty skimmers were one of the few that posed for photo opps.

h-canoe on pond

As I watched the dragonflies flit about along the shoreline and watched and watched some more, I noticed a couple of fishermen making use of the LEA canoe. I don’t know if they caught any fish, but I heard and saw plenty jumping and swimming. Well, a few anyway. And something even skimmed across the surface of the water–fish, snake, frog?

h-rose hips.jpg

Rose hips by the pond’s edge reminded me of my father. He couldn’t pass by a rose bush without sampling the hips–especially along the shoreline in Clinton, Connecticut.

h-pond toward 5 Fields

The view toward Five Fields Farm was equally appealing.

h-pickerel frog

And then I moved down tire alley, which always provides frequent sightings of pickerel frogs. I’m never disappointed.

h-golden spindle

At the transition from a red maple swamp to a hemlock grove, golden spindles embraced a white pine sapling as if offering a bright light on any and all issues.

h-hairy woodpecker

In this same transitional zone, a female hairy woodpecker announced her presence.

h-green frog

When I crossed Sawyer Brook, green frogs did what they do best–hopped into the water and then remained still. Do they really think that I don’t see them?

h-hobblebush berries

At last, I walked out to Grist Mill Road and made my way back. One of my favorite surprises was the amount of hobblebush berries on display.

h-meadowhawk

Walking on the dirt road gave me the opportunity for additional sights–a meadowhawk posed upon a steeplebush;

h-chicken

chicken of the woods fungi grew on a tree trunk;

h-chipmunk

and a chipmunk paused on alert.

h-American Woodcock

But the best find of the day–one that caused me to halt on the road as I drove out of LEA’s Holt Pond Preserve–an American Woodcock.

Worth a wonder! And a pause. Certainly a reason to halt frequently at Holt Pond.

 

 

 

Tagging Along with Jinny Mae

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” ~ Albert Camus

While I sometimes walked beside Jinny Mae this afternoon, I spent more time following her and am still her friend (I think).

A HOT afternoon. Despite the heat, however, I’m always tickled to follow her because she knows her 40-acre property intimately–including all of its nooks and crannies and cool sights.

j-green frog in water

 

We had some rain this morning, but Jinny Mae’s land is naturally wet and well loved by mosses and ferns . . . and green frogs. As we approached, several leaped into this mini pool and then posed.

j-green frog

Others waited patiently–probably hoping we’d move along.

j-polypore

J.M. has a fascination for fungi. Many fruiting bodies, like this gilled polypore, showed their faces as we moved about.

j-gilled polypore

We rolled the log to get a better look at the maze-like underside.

j-false chanterelle

Among our finds–chanterelles (deleted false because fungi expert, Jimmie Veitch informed me that they are true chanterelles. If you want to know more about Maine fungi or to purchase some, visit White Mountain Mushrooms) and . . .

j-coral

a coral fungi. Given today’s humidity, it felt like we were in the Bermuda of the North.

j-fern

Jinny Mae also showed me a fern-like moss that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: stair-step moss. This moss is particularly fond of the moist coniferous and hardwood forest we tramped through. Its new growth arose from the previous year’s growth–climbing like a staircase.

j-yellow birch and hemlock

Nearby, she pointed to one of her favorite tree displays–a hemlock and yellow birch sharing space. Both have seeds that germinate best on rotting logs or rocks, where moss gathers and provides moisture. In a compatible relationship, they’ve reached for the sky with equal success. I’m reminded of two friends who know the importance of supporting each other–similar to the chitchat and occasional silence Jinny Mae and I share as we bushwhacked.

j-lightning 2

And then she introduced me to Excalibur. Even King Arthur probably couldn’t pull this    sword-like piece of a tree out of the ground–well, maybe he could. But we couldn’t.

j-lightning tree 1

The reason for Excalibur’s existence: a recent lightning strike.

j-lightning 4

We looked around and saw that the energy passed through at least three trees.

j-lightning 5

Bark peeled off.

j-lightning 3

And shredded wood scattered. What surprised us both was that we couldn’t find any burnt wood. Thankfully.

j-beech drops

Making our way back toward her house, we entered a beech forest and began to see beechdrops everywhere we looked.

j-beech drops2

These are parasitic plants that don’t manufacture their own nutrition, thus they depend on the roots of American beech trees for food.

j-coteledon

In this same area, we come across a young beech tree Jinny Mae flagged in the spring when she first observed a cotyledon. We chuckled when we remembered how we both were so taken with cotyledons a few months ago–a new sighting for us. One of those things that was always there, but we’d never noticed it previously. Today, she was filled with pride for this young beech. It’s had a healthy start and in forty years may provide beech nuts for the neighborhood bears. In the meantime, it will probably nourish a few beech drops.

j-Indian pipe .jpg

And then she showed me the final cool find of the day–an Indian pipe with stamens that appear to have split away from the flower. It seems that these friends made the move together–much the same as Jinny Mae and I did today.

I may have tagged along and followed her, but really, we walked side by side and I’m thankful for her friendship.

Mondate Afternoon

My guy was on an unexpected road trip all weekend and didn’t arrive home until lunchtime today. So, while I waited for him, I did what I do best–stalked the garden.

n-morning white faced wasp

I’m not sure I ever noticed this black and white bee previously. Its hairy body shimmered in the morning sun.

n-morning golden digger wasp

At the same time, the great golden digger wasp moved quickly about, using its jointed antennae to search out nectar before it honed in on the sweet stuff.

n morning wasp

In a similar manner, a thread-waisted wasp also visited the mint flowers.

n-morning  turtlehead

As I made my rounds, I was thrilled to find turtlehead about to bloom. This late-blooming flower is one of my favorites (turtle theme), and I’ve watched it move from spot to spot in the garden. This year, it’s plentiful in a shadier place than usual.

n-morning black eyed susan

While the turtlehead sported new life, the black-eyed Susan spoke of days gone by. But even still, I think it’s stunning.

n-morning cricket

On the deck I noticed a cricket. Really, they are everywhere right now and sing all day and night–thus the reason we named our homestead Cricketchirp Farm. Don’t get it wrong–we don’t farm–we just live in an old farmhouse. Our best crop–insects.

n-morning grasshopper

And then I noticed I wasn’t the only one doing the watching. The red-legged grasshopper broke through a spider web and turned its head to keep an eye on me. Nice lips.

n-ordway sign

Finally, my guy was home and eager to stretch his legs. So I convinced him to explore several properties in the Oxford Hills region with me. Our journey began at Ordway Grove.

n-Ordway trailhead

The trailhead is located on Pleasant Street in Norway and begins beside a quaint shed. Though the trail isn’t long, its history is worth reading on the Norway Historical Society’s Web site.

n-oak on beech

This is land where large red oaks are supported by much smaller beech, and . . .

n-giant pines

towering white pines speak volumes about the last few hundred years.

n-Penneseewassee

The trail includes a few peeks at Lake Pennesseewassee, aka Norway Lake. Our only disappointment–signs of man’s disturbance, aka trash and some graffiti. Why?

n-wasp Witt Swamp.jpg

After we completed the loop walk and stood in awe among the giant trees, we continued up Pleasant Street to the trailhead for the Witt Swamp Trail owned by the Western Maine Foothills Land Trust. At the kiosk, an attached note provided warning. The register was a bit destroyed–perhaps due to a wasp encounter. It was cold and breezy when we arrived so we didn’t see, hear or feel a single insect.

n Witt Swamp evergreens

The beginning of the trail leads through a variety of youthful evergreens including red and white pines, balsam fir, hemlock and cedar.

n cedar leaf

Because they are saplings, I was able to take a closer look at the cedar leaves. Can you see the oil glands that give cedar its aromatic smell when the leaves are crushed?

n-cedar waves

My eyes were constantly drawn to the waviness of cedar bark, which creates a pattern not equaled by others.

n cedar works

Cedar works and . . .

n-cedar legs

cedar legs speak of their family genes–cedars are members of the Cypress family.

n-squeeze between 2

Two trees and a few signs encouraged us to pass through–so we did.

n-arrow at Witt

Other signs also indicated the direction to follow–this one much like an oversized arrowhead.

n-hemlock hugs

Not to be left out, a hemlock hugged the rock and itself.

n cornwall map

After another rather quick journey, we drove to Paris Hill. Our destination: Cornwall Nature Preserve, a 147-acre tract donated to the town of South Paris by Alice Cornwall. We decided to follow the wide white-blazed trail toward the purple trail leading to the Ice Pond.

n ice pond dam

We found the old dam, where water trickled through the rocks, but didn’t realize that somewhere in this vicinity we missed what may have been the ice house–or perhaps a rock foundation of sorts. Now that I know we missed it, I’m eager to return for a closer look. Back in the day, ice was cut and probably stored in the ice house. As a kid growing up in Connecticut, I recall going to an ice house on Route 1 in Clinton. Ice blocks stored in an insulated icebox kept perishable food chilly.

n-artists conk

We did see a few mushrooms here and there, but this summer’s drought means a low amount  of mycelium’s fruiting form. A few artist conks made themselves known.

n-oak fern

Without field guides, I think I ID this correctly as oak fern. Though similar to bracken, its stem was delicate and its height low. I should have looked for sori, but only had time for a quick shot–I was with my guy, after all.

n-Cornwall stonewalls

Again, there were stonewalls throughout the property–this one covered with moss. Like much of Maine, this was once farm country.

The Cornwall Nature Preserve has a variety of trails, but no maps other than the one at the kiosk. We figured out the layered trail system and encircled most of the outer part of the property. Much of it seems worthy of further exploration and enchantment.

We certainly felt enchanted to finally celebrate an afternoon Mondate.

 

 

Sundae School

I went on a reconnaissance mission this afternoon and visited a land trust property I’ve never stepped foot on before. My intention was to scope it out for possible use with a future Maine Master Naturalist class. My realization from the get-go was a happy heart. I can’t wait to return and take others along so we can make discoveries together.

n Preserve sign

I’ve only been on one other Western Maine Foothills Land Trust property, so had no idea what to expect. The small parking area for Shepard’s Farm Preserve is at 121 Crockett Ridge Road in Norway. (Norway, Maine, that is.) This is one of seven preserves owned by the trust. I should have known I’d enjoy myself immensely just by the name. Though we spell Shephard with an “h,” it’s a family name for us. Who knows–maybe there’s a connection.

n-trail sign

On the back of the brochure I grabbed at the kiosk, I read the following: “Originally owned by Benjamin Witt, the high undulating pasture of Shepard’s Farm Family Preserve was transferred to Joshua Crockett in 1799, Charles Freeman in 1853, John Shepard in 1910, and to Bill Detert in 1984.” Mr. Detert and his family donated the property in memory of his wife, Jan, to the WMFLT in 2010.

n-Indian pipe bee 1

My lessons began immediately. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a bee pollinating an Indian pipe. And in the middle of the afternoon. Huh? I’ve always heard that they are pollinated by moths or flies at night. Of course, upon further research, I learned that bees and skipper butterflies have been known to pay a visit to the translucent flowers. Add that to the memory bank.

n-Indian pipe

As I continued along the trail I found the upturned mature flower and again wondered–who stopped by for a sip of sap? Lessons should evoke further questions and a desire to learn more.

n-hawkweed

The trail offered other familiar flowers, like hawkweed,

n-pearly everlasting

pearly everlasting, goldenrods and asters, Queen Anne’s lace, boneset and jewelweed.

n-monkeyflower 3

And then I come upon a wildflower I don’t recall meeting before. The lesson included a look at the leaves, their arrangement on the stem, and the flowerhead.

n-monkeyflower 1

The answer to the quiz–lavender-flowered Sharp-winged Monkeyflower. Monkeys in the woods! You never know. Sometimes I think that red squirrels sound like monkeys when they chit at me, but in this case, it’s the fact that the flower looks something like a monkey’s face.

n-thistle young and old

Further on,  I spotted a favorite that I don’t see as often as I’d like. What I didn’t realize is that thistles are in the aster family. Always learning. Its presence here is referenced by trail conditions, which change periodically from mixed hardwoods to softwoods to open places. Thistles prefer those open places–fields and waste places. Hardly waste in my opinion. Rather, early succession to a woodland.

n-bee on thistle 2

A bee worked its magic on the flowerhead so I moved in for a closer look.

n-bee on thistle1

As with any flower, it was a pollen frenzy.

n-thistle with seeds

Seconds later–maturity! Well, maybe not quite that fast.

n-thistle seeds 1

But the seeds had developed their downy parachutes and the breeze was a’blowing.

n-thistle seed 2

They knew it was time to leave the roost and find a new classroom.

n-trail ferns

Another lesson worth more time was a look at the natural communities along the trail. Bikers and hikers share this space, but what I found fascinating was the constant change.

n-trail hay

The original trail for the Shepard’s Family Farm Preserve was located on a 19-acre parcel. Recently, the Witt Swamp Extension was added, which almost circles around a 250+ acre piece. Hay covers some of the new trail right now–giving it that farm-like feel and smell.

n-trail 1

I’m not certain of the mileage, but believe that I covered at least 4-5 miles in my out and back venture over undulating land and through a variety of neighborhoods. The trail conditions–pure bliss. No rocks or roots to trip over. Instead, I could look around for the next lesson.

n-cedar bark

One of the things I love about hiking in Norway is that I get to be in the presence of cedar trees–Northern white cedar.

n-cedar leaves

I’m fascinated by its scale-like leaves.

n-deer tracks

So are the deer, who feed on the leaves during the winter months.

n-dry stream

I found only deer tracks, and noted that all stream beds were dry, though the moss gave a moist look to the landscape. We’re experiencing a drought this summer.

n-red leaf

Due to that lack of rain, some red maples already have turned and colorful leaves are beginning to float to the ground.

n-porky 3

Deer aren’t the only mammals that inhabit this place. From the trail, I noticed hemlock trees with bases that looked like perfect gnome homes. And then I spotted this one that invited a closer look.

n-porky den

A pile of porcupine scat–the pig-pen of the woods. Even Charlie Brown would note a distinct odor.

n-toad camo

And in true “Where’s Waldo” tradition, a young American toad crossed my path. The camo lesson–blend in for safety’s sake.

n-turtle 2

Being former farmland, stonewalls wind their way through the preserve. And my childhood fascination with turtles was resurrected. Do you see it?

n-turtle 3

How about now? Hint: the head is quartz.

n-turtles

And this one? They’re everywhere. It makes me wonder if it was a style of the times.

n-stone wall ending

I crossed through a gap in the stonewall and noted two smaller stones topped by a large flat one. A reason why? The questions piled up. I need to ask the teacher.

n-stonepile

And then there were the stone piles. Why so many smaller stones around a boulder? What I love about this spot is that a hemlock took advantage of the boulder and grew on top of it.

n-stone structure 2

And another favorite find–a stone structure.

n-stone structure, flat

Created with rather flat field stones.

n-stone structure 1a

It’s near a stonewall, so I surmised it was a shed of some sort rather than a root cellar for a home. I could be wrong, but am thrilled by the opportunity to see it.

n bird sculpture

One of the coolest features of this property is that it’s home to sculptures created in the 1970s by Bernard Langlois, including this bird in flight. The sculptures were made possible recently by the generosity of his widow, Helen Langlois, Colby College and the Kohler Foundation.

n-bird lady 2

Mrs. Noah is my favorite. She has stories to tell and I have lessons to learn.

It’s Sunday and by the time I finished hiking I was hot. I’d intended to check out a few more preserves, but the thought of a creamsicle smoothie at a local ice cream shop had my focus–until I pulled in and saw this posted: “Cash and local checks only.” No cash. And though our checks would be local, I didn’t have any with me either. Lesson learned.

I drove home and made my own sundae.

Rather a Mondate

Yes, it’s Monday. But as has been the case lately, my guy and I haven’t been able to hike together. We both had chores and projects to complete and so we did.

In the late afternoon, however, I headed out the back door. My mission–to locate something orange to photograph for our young neighbor who is prepping for a bone marrow transplant. Not an easy task, but like others I know, as often as he can, he smiles through this journey.

m team orange

Orange hawkweed provided today’s support to Team Kyan. May he continue to be strong. And his family, as well.

m cicada 5

After my orange find, I journeyed on–headed for our woodlot. And only steps from it, I discovered this camo-dressed insect fluttering on the ground. The male member of this species is known for the high-pitched buzz we hear on summer days. Sometimes, it’s almost deafening.

m cicada wings

This is a cicada, one that appeared to have a wing issue. A set of wings was held close to its  thick body, while the other set extended outward. (I thought of Falda, the faerie with folded wings in The Giant’s Shower.) I love the venation, reminiscent of a stain-glass window. Strong, membranous wings for a large insect.

m cicada flap

When I returned a second time, it was flapping those wings like crazy, but take off wasn’t happening. Did a predator attack at some point? Will it still be there tomorrow? So much to wonder about.

m cicada up close 2

And being me, I took advantage of the fact that it wasn’t going far to take a closer look. Notice the three legs extending below the thorax.

m-cicada kiss

Face on! We might as well have kissed. I’ve licked a slug, but passed on the opportunity to kiss a cicada. I do love this broad head, however. Check out that mouth that protrudes. Hidden inside are mandibles and maxillae used to pierce plants and drink their sap (xylem). Even if this chunky one couldn’t fly, it could still eat. And those eyes, oh my. So, here’s the scoop. The two obvious outer  eyes are compound, the better to see you with. But then I noticed three red spots located between the two compound eyes. Do you see them? These are three more eyes known as ocelli–they look rather jewel-like and are perhaps used to detect light or dark. Yup, this is a five-eyed insect. Certainly worth a wonder.

m indian pipe 6

As I continued my wander, I noticed that in the past few days a large number of Indian Pipes made their ghost-like presence known.

m indian 7jpg

Ever so slowly they broke through the ground–these under a hemlock grove.

m indian pipe 24092

Though each is one flowered, they love communal living.

m indian pipe 5

Their waxy flowers dangle as they pull up through the duff.

m indian pipe

Once fertilized, their pipes slowly turn upright, where the flowerhead will transform to a capsule encompassing the seeds of the next generation. Notice the lack of leaves–scales take their place.

m pine sap group

Also in these woods, I knew today to look for a relative of Indian Pipe because I found their capsule structures last winter. Pinesap growing below an Eastern white pine.

m pine sap 3

Since it was dark under the trees, I needed to use a flash, thus the color. But really, these are amber. And multi-flowered on a raceme. Pinesaps and Indian Pipes produce no chlorophyll, therefore they can’t make food on their own. And because they aren’t dependent on light, they thrive in shady places.

m-pine sap flowers

What sustains them is their saprophytic nature–they aren’t a fungus, but depend on fungi to obtain carbohydrates from another plant, so the mycorrhizal fungi serves as the connector between the host and the Pinesap’s roots.

m-pine sap up

While the Indian Pipe is scaly, the Pinesap has a hairier appearance. Both are members of the heath family.

As for me and my guy, today we’ve been near each other, but not on a playdate. In fact, as I sit in the summer kitchen and write, he’s doing a huge favor for me. Isn’t that how it should be? No, not really. We’d rather be on a Mondate together.